Tuesday, April 23, 2019

EDC Choreographer Spotlight: Helen Wang

Our next choreographer spotlight is Helen Wang! Helen is a dance & movement studies major, who is very excited to be choreographing for the Emory Dance Company this semester. Helen's cast of four dancers has been working with themes of beauty, and she received inspiration for the work from many different sources.

Read on to find our more about Helen's work!

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity

My work is about my perception of beauty, which is dictated by desires and points to the idea of vanity. There is a twofold meaning of vanity - one is being excessively prideful about one's attractiveness and the other is the state of being futile and empty. Both meanings of vanity constitute the framework of my piece.

Since I have a relatively small cast with only four dancers, I start with a core phrase that I choreograph, and then teach the dancers. I also give them prompts to choreograph, and modify the material I give them. The input from the dancers is an important part of the process because much of the piece is made up of solos and duets.

My work was first inspired by a music video called "Ugly Beauty," sung and performed by Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai. This music video reflects some of the social phenomena in Taiwanese society and reveals that now is the age of "lookism." Being born and raised in the same society, I also drew on some personal experiences on the topic of perceptions of beauty, and finally reached the conclusion that the pursuit of beauty is often simply to satisfy one's desire and ultimately it's all vanity.

I was also inspired by a dessert called magic chocolate ball in which normally there are brownies and ice cream inside, and the chocolate dome is subsequently melted by molten chocolate. This dessert reminds me of the idea of vanity - being pompous outside and hollow inside, so I decided to bring it to the stage. One dancer puts the chocolate ball on another dancer's head and then pours the molten chocolate to melt the chocolate dome, representing the ruins wreaked by vanity while pursuing beauty based on unrestrained desires. I also intend to use fake rose petals (either red or blue or both) to create a rectangular path along the stage while the center part remains hollow, which also echoes back to the idea of vanity.

Thanks Helen!

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

EDC Choreographer Spotlight: Maria McNiece

Maria McNiece is our next choreographer spotlight! Maria is a junior at Emory double majoring in dance & movement studies and business. Her work Cubism uses a 26-foot 4x4 grid to translate the concept of cubism into three-dimensional movement using six dancers. This is her first time choreographing for EDC and she is very excited to share this work!

Read on to find out more about Maria's creative process!

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity

As an artist, I'm interested in creating work which evades narrative and entertainment to explore functional movement, and I sought to express my artistic values clearly through this work. Cubism is a group exploration of shape and line, a tethered relationship to inanimate grid, and design of movement patterns around a space.

This first months of rehearsals were characterized by collaborative movement generation between me and my dancers. We used prompts related to angularity, line, and directionality to create dozens of phrases, and then worked to select the most interesting explorations and curate the work's structure. As a group, we created a complete exploration of what it meant to translate cubism through movement. This process was highly collaborative; I do not have the talent alone to create the caliber of work as a team of seven can.

For this work, the stage is structured with lines of masking tape constructing a 26-foot, 4x4 grid on the floor. The dancers' movement outlines the geometry of the squares, places them inside the grid, and ultimately, deconstructs the rules of the physical structure which characterize the piece. I am inspired by the functional aesthetic of costumes utilized by Trisha Brown Dance Company, and worked with designer Cyndi Church to dress my dancers similarly. The pure functionality of the costume choices reflect my proclivity to minimize production elements and only showcase the essential.

As a movement artist, I am especially inspired by the avant-garde and postmodern style developed most prominently by Merce Cunningham during the 1960/70s. When I was beginning this process and considering how I wanted the work's vocabulary to materialize, I decided to apply postmodern values into movement generation while leaning into my love of floor work. The first drafts of this work utilized a vocabulary of floor work exclusively; however, as the work developed, I felt the need to explore cubism on different levels and planes, and could not ignore the possibilities of bringing my dancers off the floor. The final product of this process includes movement on every level of space, with clear attention form the dancers on their bodies' shape, line, and directionality.

Thanks Maria!

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Monday, April 15, 2019

EDC Choreographer Spotlight: Kelly Vogel

Emory Dance Company's spring concert "eight" is just around the corner! This concert features new contemporary work by eight student artists. The choreographic works are a culmination of the Choreography II course, led by Professor George Staib, where students learn about the different components of group choreography. As we get closer to the shows April 25-27th, we will be sharing a little insight into each of the works through a choreographer spotlight blog series. Kelly Vogel, a senior dance & movement students major, is our first choreographer spotlight!

Read on to find out more about Kelly's work, verge!

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity

I wanted to explore the idea of divisiveness in my work. As a human being existing in this world, we are constantly bombarded by the proposition to take sides, whether it be in the form of a political party, a certain stance on an issue, or simply an affiliation with an institution or group. It is clear to me the unproductive barriers that this mentality creates - which is why I wanted to start to untangle this topic with my dancers in my piece verge. Although my piece does not solve this division problem, or even necessarily provide answers about why humans exist in this state of divide, I am hoping it will enable audience members to evaluate their own perspectives, behaviors, and tendencies.

My dancers were crucial to the choreographic process. Without their investment in the work and their creativity, my piece would not exist. The way I enjoyed working collaboratively with my dancers was through prompts: I would give them various components of a rough sketch of what I wanted, whether that be an emotion, an attitude, a specific quality of movement, a relationship with another dancer, etc., and then I would set them free to create. Then, as choreographer, I saw it as my job to filter these ideas and understand how to arrange them in time and space to convey the movement and message I wanted.

Thanks Kelly!

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Honors Thesis Concert: Laura Briggs

Laura Briggs will be presenting their honors thesis research at the concert on Thursday and Friday March 21 and 22 at 7:30pm in the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. Laura is a senior, majoring in both dance and movement studies and chemistry. With a cast of six dancers, this work is a series of solos entitled Karass that weave together and use Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle as source material.

Read on to find out more about Laura's research process!

I have been a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan ever since I checked out my first copy of Cat’s Cradle in my high school library. His novels are simultaneously humorous and heart-breaking, brief and descriptive, sardonic and deeply human. Re-reading his work in college, I wondered if I could embody this unique style in movement form. This question served as the genesis of a year-long attempt to translate the major themes of Cat’s Cradle into movement form.

My dancers and I used the text of Cat’s Cradle to generate movement material. In one exercise, we each selected two numbers and created phrases inspired by the title of the corresponding chapter of Cat’s Cradle. I also spent time improvising on film while listening to Vonnegut reading his novel out loud. Then, I derived a series of prompts from my movements and delivered the prompts to the dancers to create their own phrases. The process of translating and re-translating text to movement and back again was instrumental to developing material rooted in the novel.

The resulting series of intertwined solo dances, Karass, explores the functionality of religion on a personal and institutional scale. During the concert, the dancers share their own experiences with religion, spirituality, and the existence of a higher power. The movement vocabulary, a series of ethereal and mundane non-sequiturs, echoes from one dancer to another throughout the piece. I do not see this dance as the end product of my research, but as the beginning of a lifetime of movement investigation.

Thank you Laura!

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Emory Dance Winter Studies: David Dorfman Dance

This past winter break Maria McNiece received a Friends of Dance Mini-Grant to attend the David Dorfman Dance Winter Intensive in New York City. At Emory, Maria is a double major in dance & movement studies, and business. She is involved in Emory Dance Company, AHANA Dance, Persuasion Dance Crew, and several others arts organizations.

Read on to find out more about her experiences!

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity

This intensive was an immersive, 6-day experience held at Barnard College, and my attendance was made possible through a Friends of Dance Mini-Grant. Over the course of my week there, I took technique classes with David Dorfman and his company, created a 15-minute length work with my intensive cohort, and gained a deeper understanding of improvisation and the possibilities of incorporating text with movement. There were around 60 other dancers who came through the intensive over the course of the week, and developing relationships with so many artists from around the country made the experience exceptionally meaningful. At the end of my time with this company, I had expanded my improvisational comfort zone, my range in movement vocabulary, and my choreographic toolkit. I would definitely attend this intensive again, and would highly recommend this workshop for artists who are interested in taking their exploration of dance and movement to another level!

Thanks Maria!

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Friday, January 25, 2019

Emory Dance Winter Studies: Broadway Dance Center

One of our Emory dancers, Willis Hao, received a Friends of Dance Mini-Grant this past winter break, to attend Broadway Dance Center's Winter Intensive in New York City! Willis is a theater studies major, and dance and movement studies minor. At Emory he is involved in multiple artistic pursuits, and was very excited to receive this grant and continue his studies.

Read on to find out more about his experiences!

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity

What intensive/program did you attend? Describe it briefly.

I attended the Broadway Dance Center Winter Intensive in New York. This intensive held over 20 hours of master classes from a diverse group of offerings including: West African, ballet, contemporary, tap, jazz, hip-hop, etc. It also introduced students to a team of well-known New York movers such as Sheila Barker (jazz) and Luis Salgado (theater) all in the span of four packed days.

What is your favorite memory from the intensive you attended?

I was allowed to take two drop-in classes as a part of the intensive, and they had this pop-up class for Vogueing. This class was one of the best experiences I've ever had, as we were able to incorporate the history of queer black/latino New Yorkers. It was liberating to enter a dance style that removed all labels of what it means to be masculine or feminine, and instead be invited to inhabit a space with strength. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot more about LGBTQ+ culture!

How do you feel this intensive has impacted you as an artist?

After this intensive I've really found my own desire for discipline. Whether it is disciplining myself to focus on my own body, disciplining my technique, disciplining what it means to put emotion into my movement, etc. One example I found especially expressive of this was in the Theater Tap class. It was really difficult, and one part of me really wanted to give up; however, I knew if I disciplined myself to focus and really attempt my best, I would learn something. This newfound want for discipline in my craft is something I really gained in this intensive.

Would you recommend this intensive to others, if so, why?

I would! It's definitely a challenge, but it really puts your body, your mind, and your courage through what it's like to be tested in the large scope of "dance." If you like a challenge, and are open-minded to information, this is a good intensive for you! I loved this opportunity and would not have changed it at all.

Thank you Willis!

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Emory Dance Company Residency: Kendra Portier

(photo courtesy of kendraportier.com)

For the past two weeks, members of the Emory Dance Company (EDC) have been working in an intensive-style setting with NYC-based artist Kendra Portier. Kendra is originally from Ohio, and holds a BFA with honors in dance from The Ohio State University. She also recently received her MFA in dance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Kendra has worked with many acclaimed dance organizations including David Dorfman Dance, Vanessa Justice Dance, and Nicole Wolcott Dance, amongst others.

Read on to find out more about Kendra Portier and her residency with EDC!

As is stated on her website, Kendra is "attracted to concepts often considered metaphysical and/or transdisciplinary." A self-proclaimed lover of mathematics, science, somatic curiosities, and music, her previous work has drawn her to a variety of topics, such as color theory, smog, and the physics/psychics of magenta. Here at Emory, Kendra has been working with EDC members for the past two weeks, for nearly 30 hours per week in a fast-paced learning environment. One dancer in the work, dance major Laura Briggs, states, "Kendra's process has been incredibly fulfilling. She moves at a quick pace, always designing and re-designing the space and the movement. It really keeps you on your toes mentally and physically. She uses a lot of rich imagery involving the core and the pelvis which adds texture and weight to our movement. The final product is a densely-packed dance built around a unique community."

Kendra is not only a dance-maker, but also a teacher and performer. She has taught and worked in residence at Gibney Dance Center, Mark Morris Dance Center, Bates Dance Festival, and Peridance. She also has her own dance collective, entitled BAND (BAND|portier, BAND|kp). Amidst her very busy schedule, Kendra currently goes between teaching at Gibney Dance Center in NYC and working as an Artist in Residence at the University of Maryland in the process of creating her new work, Burnish (Magenta #2). Kendra has also been teaching our Modern 4 and Modern 3 classes while at Emory these past two weeks, and the students have loved learning from her. They enjoy her fast-paced warm-ups, floor-work exercises, unique phrase work, and challenging team-based initiatives. We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to host Kendra here at Emory!

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